How I Parent: A Dad of 3 Older Kids and 2 Young Twins Who Embraces the Struggles and Joy of Blended Families

Name: Nigel Higgins
Location: Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom
Occupation: Founder of DIY Daddy and Painter/Decorator
Family situation: Married with five children: Jodie (23), Emily (21), Adam (20), Ruby and Maisie (7-year-old twins). My wife, who is also named Emily, and I are both part-time stay-at-home parents and share parenting responsibilities equally. We don’t have any other help.
Parenting “philosophy” in a sentence: Love your children unconditionally, and let them express themselves so they can be whatever they want to be in life, with your full support.

What was your journey to having the family life you have today?
I always knew I wanted to be a dad from a very young age. I’ve been married twice and have five children now: three with my first wife and twins with my second. In my first marriage, it took about six years before we had our first child, which felt like forever; then within five years, there were three of them. Unfortunately, my marriage broke up when my eldest was about 7. I remarried, and my wife Emily wanted children of her own as well. It took about 10 years before the twins were born through IVF. 

There wasn’t a real difference between raising my three older children and raising my twins except that I had the twins much later in life so I have more time for them. The first time around, you’re always kind of trying to fit everything in around your life, so you can easily run out of time. I definitely have more patience and time for the twins, no question about that.

About five years ago, I was working as a decorator and I had fallen off of a ladder and broken my wrist. I ended up not working for about six weeks so I could fully recover and I thought, I’ll write a blog. At first, I was writing whatever popped into my head about parenting, which eventually developed into what DIY Daddy is today: a parenting blog that covers tips for parents, gender issues, brilliant dads and honest takes on fatherhood. I write about all of my kids, but probably write more about the twins than anyone else because they’re around more. 

Somewhere along the line, people started reading it and I realized that writing not only helped me pass the time, but it also became very therapeutic for me; I also try to be honest about my struggles in the hopes of helping others. I also write for my kids; I’ve tried to document parts of my life for them so when I’m no longer here one day, this blog will be here forever and they can look back on it and remember this old bloke.

How did your upbringing influence your parenting style?
My father was gone by the time I was about 8, so I never had a male role model in my life. I had a very chaotic childhood with lots of issues with parents who weren’t there for me until I was probably 10 or 11. I thought that if I became a parent one day, I would never do it the way my own parents did it. I promised myself that I was always going to be there for my children, no matter what, and I have been, I hope. I hope that’s what I’ve done.

What’s your favorite thing about parenting?
I know plenty of people have said being a parent is the best job in the world, but for me, it’s so true. I still remember the first moment I held Jodie in my arms a minute after she was born, crying and thinking yes, this is it — this is what I was born to do.
Even without a father figure, I felt becoming a dad came very naturally to me. I’ve loved watching all of them grow up and become successful and independent. Listening to their opinions, having discussion with them and laughing … that’s all really important to me.

What’s the hardest part?
Having the twins was a bit traumatic, because they were born six weeks early … I would not wish the NICU on my worst enemy. Thankfully, they’re fine and healthy today. I think some of the hardest parts have passed because most of my kids are older. Certainly during their teen years, I’ve had to find a balance of giving them advice and not saying the wrong thing. I also learned that sometimes it’s better not to say anything at all because you have to learn to let go a little, which is something I have always struggled with. They have their own lives now and they need to learn how to fend for themselves as adults. Overall, they’ve been good kids, so I’ve been lucky. 

The difficult part of parenting now is trying to comfort them when they’re far away. It’s nice when they’re at home and you can give them a cuddle. It makes life a lot easier and a whole lot better because time really flies. It seems like yesterday my oldest was 4 years old  – she probably doesn’t even remember this but we’d look at the stars in the backyard and I’d say, “There are the stars … reach for those and you’ll do anything you want in life.” There are times when I felt scared as their father but I’ve overcome those fears because I want them to do whatever they want with their lives. I’m here to support whatever they want to do, absolutely.

How do you find time for yourself and your relationship?
My wife Emily and I aren’t people who need nights out … We’ve always done everything as a family. We occasionally might go to the movies, but it’s not something that is hugely important in our lives because we are very family-oriented. Emily is also very close to my three older children, so that’s been a really nice relationship to watch.

When we first met, we didn’t make a big hullabaloo straight away about the fact that I was in a new relationship. I thought it was important to take it slow because I didn’t want my kids to think that I was all of a sudden with someone else and that’s it, I’m off. We all gradually eased into the situation together and it worked out well. I was concerned that there would be an element of jealousy or tension, but I never had to deal with that. In fact, last year my second-oldest daughter did a half marathon with my wife, and my oldest and my wife are constantly buying clothes online together.

What’s the best advice you can share with new parents?
Be yourself and follow your own instincts because they’re usually right. 

How do you embrace the most unpredictable moments of parenthood?
I’ve tried to handle everything with a calm head so I can stay in control of each situation. I’ve also learned that it’s important to have faith in the people who are looking after my kids, as well. It’s not always easy, but it’s important to stay calm or else your child will pick up on your energy and they will get all wound up and upset and you don’t want that.

What would you want your kids to say about you as a parent?
I’d love for them to say I did my best, that I always loved them and that I was always there for them. I wouldn’t want anything more than that really. I just hope they all know how much I love them and how much they all mean to me. They have completed my life. They have made my life what it is today.

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